Issac Winters will likely acclimate himself better than anyone when the latest long gray line reports to the Academy Prep School in Fort Monmouth, N.J., next month. After all, this will be his sixth straight new school.
Since graduating from eighth grade he has attended four different high schools. More amazing is that he was able to adjust to four different high school football teams. And play strictly varsity on all four.
He'll graduate June 19th from Bethel High School in Spanway, Wash., where last football season he played running back and cornerback and competed in track and field.
Among those who did not see him compete was his father. Deployed to Iraq since last August, the Command Sgt. Major is scheduled to return home in August, at which time he'll have in 20 years of service.
"He's ready to get out,'' Winters said, a smile coming through his cell phone. "He wants to see me play ball.''
The 18-year-old can't wait. He can't wait to see his father, can't wait to play football with his new teammates, can't wait to grow roots.
Born in Germany, Winters has lived in Virginia, Texas, Kansas and the northwest.
"I don't really have a home,'' he said.
For him, home has been wear you hang your helmet. He's had his frustrations, his challenges, his disappointments, and at every stop he had to prove himself all over. New town, new school, new coach, new friends. "I've handled adversity and I've been through a lot. It's been tough,'' he said. "But somehow I've managed to keep Army's interest.''
Recruited as an "athlete,'' Winters is capable of playing on either side of the ball. He was also a standout on the track team, competing in the 100M, 200M, 4-x-100 and high jump.
"I'd like to think I'm a player who keeps his cool in the heat of the moment,'' he said. "I'm a real focused player, and that allows me to make plays when the opportunity comes my way. And I've been able to come in from out of state and take on a leadership role. So those are two attributes I think are very important.''
He likes what he sees of his USMAPS teammates, and immediately struck up a friendship with future teammate Trenton Turrentine, who remains as the common thread with many of the prep bound players.
"We decided to communicate and reach out to everyone, so we've all exchanged phones and talk on Facebook all the time. I'm pretty excited about our class. I look at their profiles on Rivals and I see we're bringing in some big linemen and some tall quarterbacks. So I'm thinking we're not gonna' run the option with a 6-5 quarterback. We're actually going to allow our offense to have a passing game.
"He ran a spread at Cal-Poly,'' he said about coach Rich Ellerson, "and he's brought in some really fast track guys who won states in the 100 and 200 meters. Our running backs are really strong, too. I watched the highlight film of Larry Dixon and he dragged five guys like 10 yards. I mean, that was ridiculous. And Trenton, he's an amazing running back, too.
So that gives us a chance to restore Army's name, to restore the pride.
- Athlete commit, Issac Winters
"I think this group coming in, teams are going to have to watch out. I think Army's going to snap this losing streak they've been having and turn this thing around. I'm looking at the future, and I think coach is doing some very good things. We're playing Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. That's amazing. And we're putting up future games against some really good teams, and that tells me that coach is here to win. That excites me as a player. So that gives us a chance to restore Army's name, to restore the pride.''
Winters certainly plans on being part of that, probably at corner. One reason why he'll be putting off West Point for a year is to bulk up his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame.
He assumed for quite some time that he would be getting in shape to play ball at Weber State, where his father's college football career began. But when the offer came from the east, he reconsidered. "My first reaction was, "Nah, I don't want to go there.' But then I sat down and thought to myself what that could do. And a degree from West Point sounded beautiful. My parents always taught me that football doesn't last forever.''
It only seemed that way as he was bouncing from schools in the southwest and then the northwest. With discipline already instilled, the journey through high school actually had a chance. "I tried to keep a level head,'' he said about the annual whirlwind of changing addresses. "I always set a goal for myself to prove everybody in my new city wrong. I had to walk into a new school every year and try and take someone's starting spot. That alone took determination."
"To walk in, nobody knows anything about you or what you've done or don't even care, I just had to stay focused. I wasn't going to let anybody tell me no. I had my parents' support, but because I kept changing schools I couldn't rely on coaches helping me with recruiting. My parents would film games, I would break down tapes and make my own highlight films and send them out myself.
"I tried not to let the military handicap me. I didn't want to be a victim. I didn't want to be that guy. My family has a strong tradition of always striving to be the best. But every time I moved, I blamed the military,'' he said with a laugh. "At one point I didn't want any part of it, but somehow I ended up back in it.''
This time he plans on staying for a while.
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